Ocean State Innovate Tackles Issues of Food Security in Rhode Island
(PROVIDENCE, R.I.) -- From Jan. 19-20, 2018, the Howard R. Swearer Center at Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) convened Rhode Island community members, leaders and students to address food-related challenges at Ocean State Innovate (OSI) 2018. Participants in OSI were grouped to develop innovative solutions at the intersection of health and access, economic development and environmental sustainability and resiliency. Topics for innovation included food waste, farmland, fresh food and aquaculture.
The day-and-a-half intensive forum was made possible in collaboration with The Medici Group, an innovation strategy firm founded by its current CEO and Brown University alum, Frans Johansson ‘95. The Medici Group specializes in helping its clients create new products and services, develop leaders and upgrade their culture of innovation by activating the diverse perspectives in any room. This approach is based on Johansson’s books, “The Medici Effect” (HBS Press, 2004), which explores how groundbreaking innovation happens at the intersection of diverse fields, industries and disciplines; and “The Click Moment” (Penguin Portfolio, 2012), which explores unpredictability in today’s world and how to innovate when the rules of the game keep changing.
“The Medici Group is excited to once again collaborate with OSI as well as the country’s first director of food strategy to foster new innovations around food access and sustainability in Rhode Island,” Johansson said in a statement after the event. “The incredible energy, ideas and connections made during this forum really demonstrated that innovation happens at the intersection of diverse fields, experiences, backgrounds and interests. We look forward to seeing some of these ideas transform into initiatives that impact lives in the years to come.”
In a statement released in January, Sue AnderBois, the Rhode Island Director of Food Strategy, noted the relevance of Ocean State Innovate’s focus on food.
“In spring 2017, Governor Gina M. Raimondo released the State’s first comprehensive food strategy, Relish Rhody. Ocean State Innovate brought together diverse stakeholders from across Rhode Island to dig in on some of our areas of great opportunity and challenge in our food system, as identified in that strategy.” AnderBois said. “We are so grateful to the Swearer Center, the Medici Group and other partners for dedicating their time, expertise and resources to this event and to Rhode Island’s food system – I am so excited to see what great thinking and projects happen as a result!”
Following this unique opportunity to use design thinking and collaborative problem solving to address challenges facing the state, the 80+ participants will have an opportunity to pursue ideas developed at the event through partnerships between Brown and the Rhode Island community, thanks to a range of Swearer Center resources, including internships, research projects and student fellowships.
The Swearer Center at Brown University is committed to supporting impact-driven community capacity and innovation in Rhode Island. Social innovation creates and connects students to meaningful experiences focused on action, identity and social impact through the lenses of innovation.
"We are happy to facilitate Ocean State Innovate 2018 and to work in partnership with Rhode Islanders to support innovations designed by and for the community," Mathew Johnson, Associate Dean of Engaged Scholarship and Executive Director of the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University, said. "OSI presents students with an opportunity to learn about community-centered innovation in a reciprocal, community-focused environment."
The first Ocean State Innovate forum took place March 11-12, 2017 at Brown University. Participants tackled specific challenges related to three areas of impact: smart government, housing affordability design and public transportation infrastructure for working families. Ideas developed in last year’s event have had an ongoing impact on the state’s process of increasing government transparency. One idea led to the creation of the Rhode Island Bill Information Tracker (RIBIT), an online platform that organizes official data from rilegislature.gov to make it more accessible.
“It’s incredibly important and exciting to bring together such a diverse group of stakeholders in the food system so we can think creatively about how to address our collective challenges,” Eva Agudelo, Assistant Director of Programs at the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, said. “As someone who works in the field of food security, I’m hopeful that this event will move Rhode Island forward by creating actionable and forward-thinking strategies to ensure that hungry families get the food they need, farmers get a fair price and the resources to succeed and our local food businesses are celebrated as the heroes they are.”
Ocean State Innovate 2018 Steering Committee members include: Sue AnderBois (Rhode Island Director of Food Strategy), Nicole Pollock (Chief of Staff for Mayor Jorge Elorza), Octavia Abell (Rhode Island Office of Innovation), Liz Tanner (Director of the RI Department of Business Regulation), Eva Agudelo (Assistant Director of Programs at RI Community Food Bank), Cristina Liberati (Grant Projects Manager, Equal Exchange), Courtney Bournes (formerly Senior Program Officer at Henry P. Kendall Foundation), Chef William Idell (Assistant Dean of the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson and Wales University), Mark Tracy, Kevin Jankowski (Career Center Director at RISD) and Jenn Steinfeld (Swearer Center Program Manager).